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Balkan Report: April 29, 2000

29 April 2000, Volume 4, Number 31

Imbroglio Over Tetovo University About To End? One of the major stumbling blocks to good interethnic relations in Macedonia seems about to disappear. The politicians, however, still want to have the last word.

Six years after ethnic Albanian students and professors illegally founded an underground university in the Macedonian city of Tetovo, the governing coalition has in principle agreed to formally recognize an institution in that town providing higher education in the Albanian language. The declaration of intent to create a officially recognized Albanian-language university marks a breakthrough between the ethnic Albanian and Macedonian communities.

On a visit to Skopje on 19 April, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max Van der Stoel presented a proposal for the status and financing of the Tetovo university to the coalition partners, including the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO/DPMNE) and the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH). The proposal envisages that the university will be private but function as an integral part of Macedonia's future education system. It will be financed through donations from Council of Europe member states and some European foundations for the first four years of its existence.

"Koha Ditore" noted on 23 April that the coalition partners understood that Van der Stoel's proposal was a "take it or leave it" offer. Both sides accordingly expressed their readiness to launch the university by the end of the year, even though formal steps for its registration have not yet been taken.

The new institution will not be identical with the underground university, however. Van der Stoel stressed that the directors of the new university are unlikely to hire the entire staff of the underground university. Instead, they will only hire qualified professors and other personnel. Van der Stoel added that it will be a "multi-linguistic" university, in which Albanian will not be the only language of instruction. Others to be used are: Macedonian, English, German, French, and Italian. And there will be a department for European cultural studies. Furthermore, the new university will closely cooperate with the University of Skopje in developing curricula and exchanging teachers. The two universities will mutually recognize each others' diplomas.

But the recognition of diplomas will not apply retroactively for the students of the underground university. These students, who for the last six years have studied in Tetovo, will have the opportunity to get their grades recognized only after passing the state qualifying exam in their profession or another exam at the University of Skopje. Those who fail to pass the exam will have the opportunity to continue their studies at the new university and repeat the respective tests later.

The university will have two fields of specialization: training school teachers who will work in primary and secondary education, and educating specialists for public administration and management. (Observers note that a deliberate decision seems to have been made not to follow in the tracks of Prishtina University in the 1970s and 1980s, when that body turned out hundreds of graduates in Albanian studies. Those young people then faced poor job prospects and became a catalyst for nationalist agitation in the province.)

The director of the underground university, Fadil Sulejmani, remains unsatisfied, however. He wants the illegal university of Tetovo be recognized and supported through the state budget.

Fadil Sulejmani did not meet with Van der Stoel during this visit. Van der Stoel stressed that he had not seen Sulejmani for four years, but added that he did not intend to meet him. He recalled that Sulejmani did not show any flexibility in addressing the university question during previous negotiations.

Sulejmani himself toured Germany and some other western European countries during Van der Stoel's visit. He tried to gather support among politicians there for his underground university. In this campaign, Sulejmani has support from the main ethnic Albanian opposition party, the Party of Democratic Prosperity (PPD), which was in the governing Social Democratic coalition until November 1998.

Party chairman Imer Imeri told "Koha Ditore": "We propose what the [underground] university of Tetovo proposes. This is not a problem stemming from the policies of the PPD. This is a problem between the state and the university. Our position is that the University of Tetovo must be a state university and never private."

Tensions between the Albanians in the government and those in the opposition are likely to rise when the university begins work and some current professors are left out. But Arben Xhaferi, the chairman of the PDSH, stressed that the Albanians in Macedonia must look ahead: "The PPD has had its chance to solve this problem as long as it was in the government. But they did not solve it and left it to us to do so. We are solving it for the sake of the students, for the sake of education in Albanian-language, and for the sake for the stability of the state." (Fabian Schmidt)

Montenegro Mending Fences With The Neighbors. Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic told visiting Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo in Podgorica on 25 April that he will be happy to visit Albania at an unspecified future date (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April 2000). Milo and his hosts signed an agreement on economic, trade, and cultural cooperation, as well as a protocol on cooperation between the two foreign ministries. "We have opened a new era in relations between our two countries and created the institutional basis for future cooperation," Reuters quoted Milo as saying.

Milosevic broke off relations with Albania in 1999 in response to NATO air strikes against Serbian targets. Montenegro seeks to improve relations with Tirana in several areas (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 7 April 2000). The two countries plan to open a second frontier crossing at an unspecified future date and are cooperating on several joint projects within the EU's Stability Pact. Tourism and infrastructure are among the topics on the agenda.

But not everyone is happy with the new climate. On 25 April, the Yugoslav Second Army said in a statement in Podgorica that Montenegrin Interior Minister Vukasin Maras has been trying to make domestic political capital with Montenegro's ethnic Albanian voters at the army's expense. The statement referred to recent remarks by Maras to ethnic Albanian political leaders in Ulcinj that all war crimes committed on Montenegrin territory must be investigated, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported.

In related news, Djukanovic said the previous week that he is willing to tell what he knows about the attack by Montenegrin forces in the Dubrovnik area in 1991 if that will help improve relations between Montenegro and Croatia. Zagreb's "Jutarnji list" of 22 April said that Djukanovic feels, however, that Milosevic and the late Croatian President Franjo Tudjman bear the main responsibility for that violence.

At that time, television pictures went around the world showing parts of the medieval walled city in flames from shells fired by the Yugoslav army. Other pictures depicted rowdy, uniformed Montenegrin men--some well past the normal age of military service--carrying portraits of Montenegrin national hero Petar Petrovic Njegos and helping themselves to the cognac and other contents of Dubrovnik airport's duty-free shop. More recently, Djukanovic has used that same airport for his flights to foreign capitals, for which he has publicly thanked the Croatian authorities. (Patrick Moore)

Croatian Leaders Miss Easter Mass. Archbishop Josip Bozanic called for peace and reconciliation in Croatian society in his Easter sermon in Zagreb cathedral on 23 April. State and government leaders, however, were conspicuous by their absence from a bloc of reserved seats, an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported. Under Tudjman, who himself was not particularly religious, attendance at such services was mandatory for top officials. The current leaders have gone to great lengths to distance themselves from Tudjman's practices (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2000). (Patrick Moore)

Thinking Big. Boris Skegro, who was finance minister under Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), said on 25 April that he is giving Mesic two days to produce tapes and other evidence to back up his recent charges against the ex-minister. Skegro warned that if Mesic does not substantiate his accusations, then Skegro himself will tell what he knows about Mesic's charges and what might be behind them.

Mesic claimed recently that Skegro at Tudjman's bidding illegally transferred some $100 million to foreign banks as last winter's parliamentary elections approached. The money would then be used by the HDZ as a slush fund after its anticipated defeat. This is only the latest in a series of scandals (or alleged scandals) to come to light since the new government was elected at the beginning of the year. (Patrick Moore)

'God And The Greeks.' Those, according to an old Serbian saying, are the only ones whom the Serbs can rely on in troubled times. Indeed, during the Bosnian conflict, many Serbs--including embattled leaders--found that Greece was one of the few places to which they could travel and feel welcome. During and after the recent Kosova conflict, Greek public opinion was solidly pro-Serbian. And KFOR convoys moving through Thessaloniki sometimes have to deal with uncooperative hosts as well as with feisty demonstrators.

But it seems that that Athens is now retaking stock of which Serbs it chooses to support. Some 100 delegates representing the Serbian opposition as well as Serbs in Kosova, Bosnia, Croatia, and Montenegro meet on 21 and 22 April in Athens under the sponsorship of Crown Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic. Participants agreed to form a Council of Democratic Forces of Serbia under the leadership of Aleksandar and Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle, "Vesti" reported on 25 April.

After the session, opposition leaders met with Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who said that from them he "heard a different vision of Serbia, [namely] a democratic one open to the broader European family" of nations, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported.

This did not go unnoticed in Belgrade. There the Foreign Ministry summoned the Greek ambassador for a dressing down. Among other things, Milosevic's government accused Greece of having organized Aleksandar's gathering, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 25 April.

A Greek government spokesman in Athens took issue with the charges. He pointed out that Greece keeps channels open to various actors on the Serbian political scene. He added that this is all part of Greek efforts to help find a solution to the crisis resulting from the collapse of the former Yugoslavia. (Patrick Moore)

Preparing For Life After Milosevic. Mladjan Dinkic, who is one of the leaders of the opposition group G-17-Plus, said in Nis on 25 April that his organization's top project this year will be to organize a donors' conference for "Serbia After Milosevic." He stressed that no future government stands a chance to overcome the country's myriad problems unless it has first lined up foreign support for its projects. (Patrick Moore)

Serbia's 'Man Bites Dog' Story. Scarcely a week or sometimes even a day goes by without someone in the Belgrade regime suing an opposition politician, periodical, or other institution under laws designed to protect the authorities against dissent. But a libel suit of a different type is now going before a Belgrade court, Reuters reported on 25 April.

The case is not from a member of Vojislav Seselj's party against an independent newspaper or broadcaster. This time Zoran Gvozdenovic, who is an opposition town councilman from Sabac, is taking Milosevic to court for having slandered the opposition at the February congress of his Socialist Party of Serbia. In front of that gathering, Milosevic used some pejorative references from Serbian history to describe the opposition. He likened them to "present-day janissaries," or children conscripted into life service in the Ottoman military. Milosevic also compared the opposition to "Turk converts," which is a pejorative term long used by Serbs to describe traitors of all sorts.

The judge was understandably not quite sure how to deal with the case. "Before launching a possible criminal procedure, the court first has to carry out an investigative action to determine if there are grounds for a trial," Judge Milenko Cvijovic said. He did not say when the ruling would be ready.

Gvozdenovic is under no illusions. His lawyer Dusan Petrovic said that "if the court does not set a [date for a] trial, it will be hard not to conclude that there is a privileged caste in Serbia, which can insult people without suffering any consequences." (Patrick Moore)

Quotations Of The Week. "With steady and sustained effort, we can overcome the tragedy of 19th century nationalism, and move this country and these people into the 21st century Euro-Atlantic community." -- NATO's Supreme Commander in Europe Wesley Clark, in Sarajevo on 25 April.

"James Rubin of the State Department says that 'Zimbabwe's future and reputation are threatened by this display of political intolerance.' That's true enough, and it is just as true that men like Mr. Mugabe (or Saddam Hussein or Slobodan Milosevic) aren't greatly bothered about reputation, or the future, and are impervious to scolding. Something more is needed." -- "Wall Street Journal (Europe)," 26 April.